Coach: Bob Diaco, 0-0, 0-0 AAC (1st year)
Conference: American Athletic
Last Bowl: 2011 Fiesta Bowl
Five key players: QB Casey Cochran, WR Geremy Davis, WR Deshon Foxx, C Byron Jones and S Obi Melifonwu
The Boise State Broncos will make their second road trip of the 2014 season when they are hosted by the UConn Huskies at Rentschler Field, in East Hartsford, Connecticut on September 13th. The Broncos will be entering the field following games with the Ole Miss Rebels on August 28, and the Colorado State Rams on September 6. That should be enough time for the Broncos to have adjusted to all new coaches and for the coaches to get a handle on their team.
That will also give the Broncos some idea of what to expect after the Huskies will have wrapped up two season openers of their own: home games against BYU on August 29 and Stony Brook on September 6. Forget about judging UConn based on last year’s performance, this Huskies team is a whole new animal. Like Boise State, there has been a total change in the coaching staff and a revamping of both the offense and defense squads.
None of those changes could be pivotal than the change at head coach. Bob Diaco served on the Notre Dame coaching staff as the defensive coordinator for the past four years and was the assistant head coach for the Irish the past two. He was also the 2012 winner of the Frank Broyles Award, an award given to the top assistant college football coach in the country. His Notre Dame defense was ranked in the top-10 in the nation in 2012, when the Irish went 12-1 and played in the BCS National Championship.
Offensive overview: Mike Cummings, the new offensive coordinator for the Huskies, served as the OC for the past four seasons at Central Michigan. UConn returns 14 starters and 8 are on his offense. Better make that 7 as star RB Lyle McCombs, the Huskies leading rusher and juggernaut of the offense, was dismissed from the team two weeks ago. McCombs’ loss will make the job as offense coordinator a lot tougher. Now it will fall on junior RB Max DeLorenzo to step up his game and fill a huge hole.
Besides needing a good RB, he also is still wondering about his starting quarterback. Right now, UConn QB Casey Cochran continues to improve and will probably fill the slot. Without a big ground game the Huskies will have to rely on airing out the ball and Cochran is packing a little cachet. In his last game of 2013, Cochran broke a school record in passing (461 yards) and won three of the four games he started in. The Huskies have several excellent wide receivers such as Geremy Davis and Deshon Foxx that Cochran can throw to. But another major area that should be of concern to the OC is the O-line, where just one starter returns.
Defensive overview: New defensive coordinator Anthony Poindexter had been a member of the coaching staff at Virginia since 2003 before joining the Huskies this season. With the Huskies returning only 6 starters on defense and big holes in the front line to deal with, this is probably as good a time as any to change to his new 3-4 scheme. That scheme might augment a decent secondary with cornerback Byron Jones and safety Obi Melifonwu as its anchors. Don’t forget that Poindexter’s mentor will be the head coach whose defensive strategy is unquestioned.
Special teams: With no returning starter the Huskies will have to replace nearly their entire special team squad. The place kicker and punter are both gone, and Lyle McCombs was supposed to be their main kick and punt returner this season. New special teams coordinator Wayne Lineburg, who is also a former coaching veteran of the Virginia Cavaliers coaching staff for the past four seasons, is going to have his hands full.
An early prediction for UConn: a 7-5 finish and a bowl game.